Ramzan Kadyrov, the head of Russian republic Chechnya, gave a speech last week demanding that Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky call Vladimir Putin and ask for forgiveness. “As of today, as of this minute, we do not have one single casualty, or wounded, not a single man has even had a runny nose,” he boasted, according to Al Jazeera.
While strong arming the enemy into surrender and fake bravado is nothing new for Russian military leaders, Kadyrov’s outfit did manage to surprise close-eyed observers. During his address, Kadyrov wore a pair of Prada Monolith boots, which come with a massive $1,580 price tag. Google Kadyrov and you’ll find endless descriptions of him as Putin’s “Chechen strongman”; however, the Prada boots place him in a different kind of company, as they’re the same ones that “gripped Vogue editors and street style stars alike” in the fall of 2019.
Using clothes, particularly expensive ones, is a trusted strategy for Russian leaders like Kadyrov and Putin. Kadyrov is certainly no stranger to fashion: his daughter, Aishat, is a designer who’s put on runway shows in Paris. The BBC has written about “Putin’s alpha male dressing” in the past pointing to him cosplaying as a fisherman or a biker. Sometimes it’s about what he’s not wearing, like inthose images of him astride a horse shirtless. His watch collection, which consists of Patek Philippe, A. Lange & Sohne, Breguet, and Blancpain, is valued at much more than what he reports as his annual salary. Putin is known for giving away these watches to workers in Russia or sometimes even throwing his expensive pieces into wet cement as a demonstration of his great wealth. Even when he works out, he wears $3,200 sweatsuits.
Meanwhile, in his pricey boots, Kadyrov looks like a bullying oligarch, a man who thinks his money and power can menace an opponent into surrender. Unfortunately for Kadyrov and Putin, Ukraine’s president Zelensky is playing the game of appearances much more successfully: In speeches and videos posted to social media, he looks calm and heroic, wearing dignified suits and ties or standard military garb. On Friday, he addressed the media from a lectern in a military-green T-shirt—no Prada in sight.